How Chains are Selling to Millennials in a Noisy Social Economy

In todays multi channel digital world the company is a content producers and story tellers, content is often overlooked. Your content strategy should vary from platform to platform. In digital marketing your end game is to sell more stuff, we want to sell product. In Social most companies are aggressively focusing on selling instead of making an impact and build customer loyalty. If you work in digital marketing like I do you are very fortunate.

Millennials rely on their friends to make buying decisions, and they do not want to be sold to by brands. They don’t want to engage with brands when they are on Facebook. By 2017 the millennials generation is expected to outspent baby boomers. You have to understand your audience in every channel, and understand who you are soaking to. You have to focus on building content to who you want to target. You need to focus on who you want to market to, and build that content around that data.

Millennials are telling us what they are doing, where they are going, what they want, when they want it. Brands must capitalize on this using social, and surprisingly most do not. Brands need to capitalize on major events like shows, TV, conferences, and so forth, brands need to take advantage.

Your organization needs to focus on brand loyalty, so they must forget about just advertising and need to begin to engage. It’s ok to advertise but do it in an engaging way. Use Apps to create content in a unique form, millennials don’t want to see the traditional images you would see on a billboard.

Pinterest is a new vehicle to drive traffic to your website if you are in the ecommerce world, responsible for driving more traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus combined. Brands must reward their loyal customers, and engage with them to reinforce the connection and relationship. In order to keep a millennial as a customer you must speak back to them when they speak to you. Social media is not advertising, its relationship building, so start listening.

The Rise of the Millennial And Its Effects on Omni-Channel Retail

The millennial as we know it is misperceived. The millennial consist of 25% of the world population, and there is roughly 80 million in the USA. 66% have used a computer before the age of 5 and seek immediate gratification. They are always connected and expect personalized online experiences. They were born between 1978 and 2003.

“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
– Socrates

There is an enormous amount of stress on the millennial, the balance between life, college, social media, work and more. The age of 33 and above have had a probable path, high probability. The millennial has no guarantees, unknown path and a different array of obstacles no one has seen before. Millennials are non traditional students. Colleges are focusing on the non traditional student. The enrollment of students is down so Colleges have to adjust their marketing to make up the enrollment.

Students want use their own device, and don’t want to be told which device to use. They are questioning the value of education. Annual cost of education is $17,800 and has risen 45% in the past 10 years. 95% of students own a smart phone, 16% of students use their phones to research a purchase in store. How do you combat that, there is not reason to do so. You have to play on convenience, it usually wins. You need a “bricks and clicks” model. If a student is using for a pink book, and you have green, its out of stock. What the customer sees in-store must be reflected socially, mobile, and in store.

You have to be all things to all people. They bought online and want to return in store, they bought in-store and want to return online. 28% of students have required material on day one, 34% of students decided to go to class without a required textbook. Particularly in College retail ecommerce is not getting in the way of a physical location store, in fact they compliment each other. The future is not dark for brick and mortar stores, the future is in small retail locations integrated with online ecommerce to serve a personalized experience across devices at the right moment in the right context.

Leveraging Loyalty Insights In-Store, Across Channel

You can expect to have a third of your customers account for 75% of your sales, of-course its not the same for every business. The point is your existing customers can make up the bulk of your business if you have the right loyalty program. If you want to talk to your customers you should talk to them about the most relevant topics your customers want to talk about. What you need to provide the correct data at the correct time in the correct place. Every customer is a multi-channel customer, there is no such thing as an ecommerce customer, or a store walk-in customer anymore.

If you have a database of all your customers shipping addresses, you can map them on a map and view the heavy concentration areas to know where to open up you next retail location. In some cases such as GameStop, 60% of store customers visit the website first before they come in store to finish the transaction. 26% of GameStop web visitors buy in store within 48 hours. So we know the web experience is driving in-store sales. We also know the web is influencing sales broadly. Its a great engagement channel. We want to make sure customers get the experience they want, where they want it.

The question is, how can we influence in-store sales using mobile and online? and vice-versa. When speaking of mobile, you have to understand why your customers would need to use their mobile device to engage with your brand. Multi-channel sales are growing and will continue to grow. Social is another tool that has to be leveraged. You must use the loyalty program to drive awareness and growth in a new retail location, pushing the grand opening and generating in-store revenue.

The next step is a total business transformation. The question is no longer is the product in stock, the question is, is the product somewhere in the system? Every organization is looking for new ways to earn business. You have to see your customers as a multichannel customers, and become a hybrid organization where the key strategic advantage is the transformation. You must use the existing loyalty data, link the in-store behavior and merge the bridge of data together.

Crafting Your Omnichannel Loyalty Experience

How is your customer base experiencing loyalty for your business. Its important to know as you plan to grow your customer base, and in this case its important to know how your customers are shopping. You need to be able to answer how are your customers amplifying your brand, does your business give them a powerful voice and a platform to engage. Harnessing and expanding your loyal following you need a rewards program.

Of course the first component is adding the social component to your loyalty programs. You can reward consumers to who come in-store to your brick and mortar locations. The more you interact with the customer the more chance the customer will have to becoming a lifetime loyal customer to your brand. Giving consumers rewards points for sharing a product on Social Media is one of the biggest area of opportunity.

You need to find a partner who can provide the technology you need to succeed. Demand Ware is one example of a technology that powers many big brands. At point of sale you can integrate iPads to collect rewards points in-store, you can feature this in various parts of your stores. When training the staff you must inform them of the general info about the new program, then provide the technical training for customer to sign up for rewards, and if you had an old program you must transition customers to the new. You can give customers ways to give and receive gifts, you can redeem gifts in-store on online.

To kick off your campaign you can setup a program to encourage sign-ups. You need to show them an easy way to earn points and ways they can win prizes. Show them how to track their points and an easy way to navigate the merchandizing space. You don’t want to auto-enroll customers into your program as you want them to opt-in on their own. You want to reward your top shoppers and give them ways to engage with your brand. You can offer double points on special occasions to boost sales. If you spend $1 on the program you can expect to get about a 20% ROI.

So what can you expect? The omni channel purchases frequency is expected to increase, and engagement will increase significantly as well. Most important is consumer feedback which should be number one for you is crucial. We want to know if they are receptive to your program, and know they are excited about it as well. It takes a little while to build a solid program, that can take 6-9 months to build when your speaking about multiple locations and online. You want to build momentum and messaging, so convey to your rewards points customers how your program works. Customize your program to your customer base, and as you un-veil it to your customers to you will make adjustments and integrate it into your business more and more.

Connecting Digital and Physical Assets to Compete Online

When it comes to retail chains and ecommerce its truly an innovative age. Increasing the web is becoming more than 1% or 2% of sales contributing to retain chains. One day retail chains like William Sonoma are going to have more than 50% of sales through ecommerce. How does the web become intermixed between online and offline? this is the question that retailers must answer as they continue to transform.

The key is connect your stores together. If your customers shop via multiple online channels you can take advantage and begin your merge right now. Your business has a physical location as well as an online ecommerce website. By incorporating local pick up in-store as well as same day shipping options to your customers you are increasing your service and giving your customers more options. There are many other shipping options available through local distributors and partners you can work with to get your product to your customer same day. You can ship-to-store if you sell a lot of SKU’s, this way you are making your products convenient to buy.

A simple “add to cart” button in your web-store is not enough, you can add “pick up in-store” inside your ecommerce product description to show customers your options. You can also add a Kiosk inside your store to order products to be shipped to your home just in case a customer needs more flexibility. Staples has incorporated this inside their stores which has done very well. If an item is not in-store let them order via Kiosk. This provides a great experience for the consumer.

You have to make your shopping frictionless, by utilizing cleaner layouts and sophisticated search results options, which make a lot of sense if you sell thousands of SKU’s. You mobile website can be remade to increase conversion rates, you have to make it easy to buy. People just want to Shop, thats all, so make it easy and convenient. People find convenience in the mobile devices so you have to provide them a way.

By triangulating your data throughout desktop, mobile, and your physical location you can personalize the experience for your customers. The better you get at personalization, the more your customers will spend. Your systems must recognize purchases across the board and devices, this includes every purchase point throughout the customers journey. No one buys only though one channel, they buy from here and there. Without having a unified model, none of this is possible.

Mobile Commerce: Get ready today for tomorrow

Mobile is big, we don’t have to go into the numbers. Mobile is growing. Mobile is getting bigger. We see APP’s trending up in engagement. Tablets are up, its pretty well known that they are used for couch shopping, they provide leisure, they perform well and convert better and better. But mobile still needs a budget, its easy to say “lets go mobile”. So lets discuss the purpose of mobile.

Your brand has personal style and diversity, mobile can be an asset through which you can expose your brand in an intuitive way. More and more traffic is coming form mobile devices, so businesses began optimizing their sites with responsive designs, launching mobile apps, and focusing more on mobile.

Your mobile APP can lead to 30% more tome spent on your site, and creates a bond with your brand. Some retailers are offering a way for users to engage with brands in a fun way. You can use your APP to learn more about what your customer like and dislike. Brands are using APPS to create user generated content which is highly effective in building communities of buyers around your brand.

Much of traffic comes form word of mouth, and this is consistent across many online retailers. APPs can provide an easy way for users interaction to be shared on social networks. Customers have their phone everywhere they go, whether it be in a pocket or a purse, so your brand can be in someones pocket at all times. You have to have a mobile mindset. Mobile must scale across the organization. Users use different devices for different reasons. For shopping it’s the iPad, for communication and engagement its the iPhone. Your business has to be smart about when and how to engage your users.

What is the difference between mobile web and app? The first logical step is to go mobile using your existing website. You can have a maximum reach, leverage SEO, A/B test, and utilize email traffic. With mobile apps its different as people have to download the app first and then use it.

So why go Native? Because its a highly immersive experience, and adds the ability to add deeply engaging features by utilizing existing phone capabilities like push notifications, camera, SMS, and calls. You have to be where your customer is, whether it be different devices for different purposes, whatever you decide your entire organization must be committed in going mobile.

Going Global: What you need and what you need to watch out for?

As global e-commerce sales reach $1.2 trillion this year, its clear that global ecommerce sales has strong buyer penetration. From a European perspective, we are seeing tremendous growth Russia, Italy, Spain, and other countries. In South America we see lots of growth, particularly Brazil. China has a huge lead over other Asian countries. The Chinese numbers are staggering and are predicted to grow 64% in the next year. T-mall is responsible for most of that growth. You need to ask your self, what are you doing locally vs globally? Do you send a team over there or do you outsource, what products do you sell, is it still profitable? These are some of the questions your business needs to answer before you expand.

Start Small

If you want to expand you have to start small, just like you did when you first started growing your business or if you work for a company most likely it came from small beginnings. Choose one country to focus on as you enter into the global competitive space. Remember you will have to restructure your company, its not easy to serve 80 countries so you must become close to the customer, quick in action, and find your niche in every market. Of course ecommerce is at the center of your investments, and must be considered as an area of investment so you can scale.

Don’t swallow more than you can chew

You must reach each customer within 24 hours as a service to your new customer, you don’t want to keep them waiting for 3 days for some small product they purchased if you ever want them to come back and refer your brand. You also need to find a global footprint of product offerings, having local prices, quantities and sizes. Each country uses different delivery services and have a different process in place.

You online marketing campaigns are all different, Europe is all similar but Russia for example is completely different. Fulfilling the needs of European customers is different than anywhere else in the world. Your suppliers will change from place to place. It’s impossible to do this all yourself, or you may want to team up with local partners to help you expand inside each region or country. You will have to outsource to become successful perhaps until you learn the market. Taxes are all different and vary from country to country. In Russia no one cares about Privacy but in other countries its a big concern. Consumer law is also something that varies. Product preferences and tastes must be considered as well.

Every Country has different rules

The International customer experience contains 5 major points: Timing, Taste, Logistics, Payments, and Language. Losing just one of the five elements has material adverse effect on your global plans. You have to consider all of these factors when expanding Globally, that is why you must begin to with small steps from country to country. Some of the unique challenges are pricing transparency, logistics, and localization. You might really think about partnering with a local marketing agency in the local area.

It’s easy to say I want to go global, but you are not ready to take that step all at once, as going global is a process that takes careful planning, time, and strategy. If you want to know which markets to go after consider the following in order of maturity: Travel, Music, Electronics, Apparel, Everything.

Understanding CRM as a Technology and a Process

Customer Relationship Management is an essential process when you want to scale your business. There are so many choices and technologies out there for every size of business, it can hard to understand exactly what you need and how to use it inside your business.

CRM is growing exponentially. Gartner anticipates that CRM will be worth 36.4 billion worldwide by 2017. This includes B2B and B2C. The question is, is your business there. Social CRM has become more and more essential and can now be tied into the traditional CRM systems. The world is changing and so are CRM systems.

Harvesting Data

If your business relies on repeat customers its essential for you to grow using a CRM system. Its very difficult and expensive to get a brand new customer to find you, come to your site, and purchase your products. Its much cheaper to sell to an existing customer than to acquire a brand new one. Implementing a CRM system can increase your ROI especially if your margins are small.

By implementing a CRM system you will be able to harvest data from your users and act on that data, segmenting your efforts, and learning more and more where to put your time and money. You will learn about your customer behavior, what makes a person purchase a particular product, and gain complete insight about your target demographic. If you are only measuring the first part of the buying cycle you are missing the low hanging fruit that CRM can reveal.

eCommerce CRM

The CRM strategy is extending the life of a membership. You need to tie your ecommerce data into your CRM system, pass that information to gain insight into buying cycles and trends. You can then personalize the experience for every customer. You can segment customers into buckets, knowing which group of users is most likely to buy and view patterns of interest in particular types of brands and products these users are interested in.

You can tie your email marketing platform and campaigns to user intent and actions. Using triggers to send pre-made email templates which were dynamically generated with targeted content and provide that personalized service to your customers. You need to track as much information to make the best decisions, this way your organization is more productive and precise with their efforts.

Your management must focus on this and understand how to utilize the technology available out there to create processes inside your business and produce results. The processes must be put in place quickly, must be scalable, and must unify all the information in your ecommerce organization. You can spend 4mm dollars on a top notch CRM system, but if you don’t support it with the correct people, and don’t have the correct content going into place the right way, your business will never be able to act on this data and will operate at a loss.

Personalization

Timing is everything, and if you can offer someone 10% off at that checkout and close the deal, you will will really take advantage of this technology. This is due to customer intelligence being shared, you will know how long it takes between 1st and 2nd purchase, you will be able to make better decisions. If your organization is thinking this way your business will succeed.